When paramedics and firefighters respond to a medical emergency, collecting accurate medical information is critical to ensure timely and appropriate treatment.
But what if the person is alone and can't communicate he has a history of heart problems, or a distressed spouse is so overwhelmed she can't recall the medications her husband is taking?
That's when Vial of Life can be a lifesaver.
Vial of Life is a form containing pertinent medical information, including medical history, medications and allergies, as well as contact numbers for doctors, family members, and insurance information.
This form is placed in a heavy-duty plastic, magnetic sleeve on the refrigerator door, where emergency personnel know to look for it.
The form not only saves time, but also ensures the best possible treatment.
"It gives us a good indication of what might be wrong today," said Chief Bret Davidson, with the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Department. "It helps tremendously."
The free program has existed for many years, but participation has dropped off, likely due to a lack of advertisement, Davidson said. The fire departments in Rancho Santa Fe, Solana Beach and Del Mar are making a concerted effort to remind seniors, adults with aging parents or disabled family members to participate in the program.
The forms are available for free at fire stations and senior centers in all three communities. Participants can also fill out the form online and then print it.
Anyone who requires assistance completing the form can contact their local senior center or fire department - they are happy to help, said Mary Murphy, the emergency medical services coordinator for these communities.
While no one likes to think there could be emergency, it's always better to be prepared, Murphy said.
"It's very simple, takes very little time and it makes a huge difference how effectively you can be treated," Murphy said.
Taking the time to fill out the form in advance also relieves a lot of pressure during an emergency, Davidson said. Instead of asking family members numerous questions, that information is already compiled.
Grab and go
Also, for families on their way to the hospital, all the information they might need is one spot to grab and go.
The form is not just for medical information. It has space for special instructions for dependent children and pets, so the entire family is taken care of if there is an extended hospital stay.
Rancho Santa Fe resident Judith Gillies thought the Vial of Life program made sense.
"I think it's valid for people out in this area, especially for people who live alone," Gillies said.
Once participants fill out the Vial of Life form, it is important to update it on a regular basis, said Solana Beach and Del Mar Deputy Fire Chief Dismas Abelman.
"It's not the type of thing you do once," Abelman said.
And what if the refrigerator is not magnetic? Put the Vial of Life sticker on the refrigerator door and the form in a visible place inside.
Vial of Life forms available at:
Rancho Santa Fe Senior Center contact info:
Solana Beach Senior Center contact info:
Del Mar Community Connections contact info:
Fire Departments contact info:
RSF: (858) 756-5971
DM: (858) 755-1522